Activist Greta Thunberg to join Iowa City climate strikers


Massimo Biggers speaks at the Iowa City Climate Strike on September 20th, 2019

Tyler Chalfant | October 3rd, 2019

16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg announced Wednesday on Twitter that she will be joining Iowa City students in their strike this Friday. This spring, it was Thunberg who inspired Massimo Biggers, an Iowa City middle school student, to begin striking.

Since the local movement began, both the Iowa City School Board and City Council have passed climate plans, and this September, hundreds of students and community members joined Biggers and the other strikers in a march on City Hall and the University of Iowa campus. 

“Greta coming to Iowa City means that people have paid attention to our climate strikes and we have been heard,” Biggers told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Thunberg gained international attention for protesting outside the Swedish parliament last year. After taking a sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, also spoke before Congress and has become a focal point for both supporters and critics of addressing climate change. 

“We are honored and inspired and emboldened by Greta’s campaign,” Biggers said, “and we hope her visit brings together our town and the university to join together for a real climate plan, end coal and the power plant, and put Iowa City in the forefront for climate emergency action in the nation.”

U.S. enters October with extreme weather across the country


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Today’s high temperature forecast from the National Weather Service. 

Julia Poska | October 2, 2019

Some areas of the United States entered October in summer-like heat while others faced frosty cold and intense rain.

Dry heat is scorching the south and eastern parts of of the country. More than a dozen cities — including Cleveland, New Orleans, Nashville and Indianapolis — broke high temperature records for the whole month of October.  The Weather Channel forecasts that records may continue to break through Thursday.

Meanwhile, states like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming felt unseasonable cold, with temperatures in 38 degrees Fahrenheit in Boise, Idaho. These temperatures follow a frosty weekend in the region,  with record-breaking cold and snowfall.

The Weather Channel attributes the temperature extremes to an especially dramatic curve in the polar jet stream — a fast-moving, high-altitude band of wind that impacts weather throughout the hemisphere.  Right now, the jet stream dips abnormally southward in the Western U.S. and soars abnormally northward in the east for this time of year.

Storms and floods along the stream’s path (where, the hot/dry and cool/wet air masses meet) are threatening parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

Studies say climate change alters the jet stream, intensifying weather phenomena like the “polar vortex,” though it is difficult to determine whether greenhouse gasses are playing a role in this week’s weather patterns.

 

 

Iowa landowners are restoring native habitats


Prairie Grass
Photo by David Cornwell, Flickr

Tyler Chalfant | October 1st, 2019

Tall grass prairie once covered 70-80% of Iowa, but today, less than 0.1% of that remains. Some conservationists and landowners are working to change that, planting native species to restore Iowa’s natural ecosystems. 

The fourth annual Linn Landowners Forum was held in Marion on Sunday, educating landowners large and small on restoring native habitats, planting pollinators, and reviving the monarch butterfly population. Mark Vitosh, from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, spoke at the forum about the effects of invasive species, which can push out native plants and disrupt natural habitats.

The Iowa DNR Prairie Resource Center purchases thousands of acres per year to restore natural habitats. The loss of prairie has caused the decline of many native species. Tall grasses provide winter cover for a variety of species and are home to insects and small mammals important to the ecosystem’s food chain. Additionally, native grasses can slow soil erosion and nutrient runoff, protecting lakes, rivers, and streams from pollution.

The event’s finale featured the release of 500 monarch butterflies, captured by the Monarch Research Station, which tags hundreds of butterflies each year to track their migration patterns. According to the station’s manager Mike Martin, those patterns are often disrupted by habitat loss, pesticide and herbicide use, and the elimination of milkweed. 

Veggie Rx coming to Johnson County


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Kasey Dresser| September 30, 2019

A $50,000 grant from MidWestOne Bank has been awarded to Johnson County community organizations for the creation of the Veggie Rx Pilot Program. This 26-week program aims to help individuals with diet-related diseases by providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Participants of the program will receive care from the University of Iowa Health Care’s upstream clinic and their food from either the Coralville or North Liberty Community Food Pantry. With routine access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, individualized dietary guidance, and educational activities related to healthy food, the participants will hopefully see positive changes in their daily life. Food will be purchased directly from Sundog Farm in Solon, Wild Woods in Iowa City, and Echollective in Mechanicsville.

MidWestOne Bank CEO Charlie Funk said the bank was “delighted to lend support to the Veggie Rx Program,” which will give back not only to local residents but provide business to local farms as well.

Fast food chains experiment with meatless patties


Image from Pexels.com

By Julia Shanahan | September 27th, 2019

Fast food chains across North America are experimenting with meatless patties amid a growing concern about environmental repercussions imposed by the meat industry.

McDonald’s will begin selling plant-based patties at select locations in Canada next week, a plant, lettuce, and tomato patty known as Beyond Meat. Tim Hortons, KFC, and Dunkin Brands have also experimented with Beyond Meat patties. According to a report from Reuters, since Beyond Meat was listed on the stock market in May, its shares have roughly tripled in value.

McDonald’s announcement comes after Burger King rolled out its own version of a plant-based burger, coined the Impossible Whopper.

A recent UN report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined the meat industry’s effects on the changing climate. According to the report, 4 percent of the food sold by weight in the U.S. is beef, which accounts for 36 percent of food-related emissions. The report adds that cattle is the leading source in livestock emissions, amounting to an estimate of 65-77 percent.

The report warned that if nothing is reformed in industrial agriculture, emissions from this production could increase 30-40 percent by 2050. In an analysis from Greenpeace, 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are a result of agriculture and land use.


Iowa remains the country’s leading producers of pork and large hog operations continue to rapidly increase. Waste management and water quality has been an ongoing issue for the farm state as a result of large farm operations.

Iowa researchers recommend infrastructure changes in response to rising temperatures


Tyler Chalfant | September 26th, 2019

Researchers from the University of Iowa spoke at a press conference last week about rising temperatures in the state. The models used in the 2019 Iowa Climate Statement indicate that the number of days over 90 degrees in Iowa will rise from 23 to 67 by 2050.

Jerry Schnoor, co-director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, spoke at the Cedar Rapids Public Library on Wednesday, September 18th about the changes needed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. 

Those changes include solar farms and installing solar panels on homes, building wind turbines, improving energy efficiency and battery storage, along with carbon sequestration, regenerative agriculture practices, and reforestation. “All of these things take time. It takes time to change our infrastructure,” Schnoor said, but added that action is necessary in the next 16 months. 

Peter Thorne, of the UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, also spoke at the press conference, warning of the health risks posed by extreme heat. Heat is responsible for more than 600 deaths in the U.S. every year, making it the leading cause of weather-related deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

Schnoor and Thorne also suggested infrastructure improvements to help prevent these deaths. This could include a program to cool homes during hotter months the way the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program helps with heating costs during the winter. 

Monday’s U.N. Summit highlights progress and stagnation for climate urgency


Greta Thunberg
A photo of Greta Thunberg from Creative Commons. 

By Julia Poska | September 29, 2019

At the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, international government officials, business leaders and change-makers gathered to promote efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at present and in coming decades.

The United Nations website touts achievements from this summit, including increasing participation in programs like the “Powering Past Coal Alliance.”

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced his country’s launch of the new “Climate Ambition Alliance” at the conference, as well. Sixty-five countries and the European Union, as well as numerous cities, businesses and investors signed-on to achieve net‑zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Others have indicated intention to ramp up current efforts in the next year.

Several U.S. states, cities, businesses and investors were among the early signers, but the nation as a whole has not joined the alliance. New York Times reporters Somini Sengupta and

Star teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg noted her disappointment with world leadership’s overall lack of urgency during a speech to the assembly.

“How dare you? ” Thunberg said, accusatorially. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

That same day, Thunberg and 15 other youth activists filed an official complaint to the United Nations, CNN reports. The children alleged that Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey collectively violated a human rights treaty by taking inadequate steps to curb emissions.